American church leaders condemn torture
Church leaders brought together by the National Council of Churches USA and the international aid organization Church World Service have publicly commended the US Senate for 'anti-torture provisions' in its 2006 Defence Appropriations Bill - and have expressed concern that some high-ranking American government officials are declining to support them.
Meeting in Assembly last week, the NCCUSA church leaders declared: 'As delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to US and international legal norms.'
They continue: 'We find it particularly abhorrent that our nation's lawmakers would fail to approve the pending legislation disavowing the use of torture by any entity on behalf of the United States government.'
The ecumenical body, which gathers together Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Black and Peace-tradition churches claiming over 50 million adherents across the USA, cites the teaching of Jesus and the notion of human beings as 'made in the image of God'.
The Defence Appropriations Bill has been discussed by the US House of Representatives.
International opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of revelations about the behaviour of US forces at Abu Ghraib and illegal detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
The full text of the NCCUSA statement reads:
'Based upon our longstanding policies defending human rights and our affirmation of human dignity as revealed in scripture, the General Assembly of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service meeting in Baltimore, MD, November 8-11, 2005, commends the United States Senate for its recent passage of the ëAnti-Torture Provisions' which came as amendments to the Defense Appropriations Act of 2006.
'As that bill now comes before the House of Representatives for action (HR 2863), we are deeply disturbed that leaders within our nation's government oppose legislation which publicly disavows our nation's use of torture anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances.
'Within the core of our religious tradition are Jesus' call to love our enemies, his blessing of those who work for peace, and his instruction that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew. 7.12) - a teaching found in other faith traditions as well. Both United States and international law reflect this biblical mandate, a social ethic commonly known as the Golden Rule, by upholding as core principles the right of due process and the humane treatment of all prisoners, even in times of war.
'As delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to US and international legal norms. We find it particularly abhorrent that our nation's lawmakers would fail to approve the pending legislation disavowing the use of torture by any entity on behalf of the United States government.
'Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and tortured alike. Torture turns its face against the Biblical truth that all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1.26, 27). It denies the preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by reducing its victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how noble the cause for which it is employed.
'We believe that any reluctance of this nation to publicly disavow torture under any circumstance not only erodes the peace of the world but even the possibility of peace, since it destroys the trust required for diplomacy and other non-violent means to seek peace. Thus, we call upon members of the US House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate by approving the legislation before it banning the use of torture by any entity of our government.
'Furthermore, we urge the President of the US and all members of his administration to support this legislation by affirming America's long-standing commitment to refrain from the use of torture.'